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Montana reports 1,500 COVID-19 cases, 21 deaths in Tuesday update

Montana reported 21 more COVID-19 deaths and 1,500 COVID-19 cases in an update to the state case mapping and information website Tuesday morning.

The new cases bring the state's death total to 543 people. Montana began the month of November having reported 376 COVID-19 deaths. Through the first 17 days of the month the state has on average reported the deaths of nearly 10 people every day.

Hospitalizations and deaths increasing in Montana

A graph from a recent Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services epidemiological analysis shows increased COVID-19 hospitalizations and related deaths in Montana.

Over the last seven days Montana has in its daily reports added 8,405 cases for an average of 1,200 cases a day.

The state finished October reporting about 5,000 cases a week, and through Nov. 13 was reporting more than 6,000 cases a week, according to a recent epidemiological analysis published by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Service's communicable disease and epidemiology bureau.

The increase in cases comes despite a decrease in testing. The DPHHS report states that testing this month through Nov. 13 is down about 8% from October, and that Montana is averaging about 33,000 tests a week.

Amid rapid case growth hospitals in the state are continuing to struggle. Six out of 10 large hospitals in the state had limited intensive care unit beds or were near capacity Monday, according to a snapshot hospital capacity and occupancy report from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. Six out of 10 large hospitals reported having limited bed availability or being near capacity overall.

In one recent example of the extent to which regional hospitals are running out of room, a man from North Dakota died from COVID-19 at Livingston HealthCare hospital last Friday because there was no room to treat him in his home state.

Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare, which offer healthcare services to a region with a population of about 650,000 people, were treating 147 COVID-19 patients Monday and had a combined 12 open ICU beds.

Dr. Neil Ku, an infectious disease specialist with the Billings Clinic, said last week that the hospital was already seeing a seasonal uptick in patients and had yet to start seeing a flu season increase in patients.

The hospital was already converting offices into hospital rooms by Oct. 12, which was around the same time the hospital confirmed it had a contract to have a refrigerated morgue truck on standby for the storage of bodies.

Last Friday the hospital was at 108% capacity and was in the process of setting up temporary beds for non COVID-19 patients in offices and rooms physicians had been using to rest during long shifts.

The newly reported cases on Tuesday bring the state's active case total to 19,750, which is down slightly from Monday's all-time high of 20,009 active cases.

A weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force report issued to state governors this week once again ranked Montana worst in the nation for test positivity, a metric which is used to understand the presence of disease in an area. The recent epidemiological analysis from DPHHS calculates Montana's test positivity through Nov. 13 has averaged about 18% a week.

For comparison, the state's epidemiologists put weekly test positivity in late March and early April, what they call the state's "first peak" at 4%. That dropped down to .4% in May. That rate began to climb in June and was between 4% and 5% weekly in July and August, according to DPHHS. In October the state's positivity rate reached a weekly average of 12%.

The World Health Organization recommends a positivity rate of 5% or lower for 14 days before lifting a lockdown. 

In the same report Montana was ranked third worst in the nation for deaths per 100,000 population, behind only North Dakota and South Dakota. Montana was also ranked 10th worst in the nation in new cases per 100,000 population.

Yellowstone County had the most cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the state as of Nov. 13.

Two Yellowstone County residents were among the people whose deaths were reported Tuesday. RiverStone Health included some additional information about them in a press release issued Tuesday morning.

One of the people who died was a man in his 60s who passed away Saturday. The other person was a woman in her 60s who died on Monday. Both people died while hospitalized in Yellowstone County.

Other counties added the following number of deaths in Tuesday's update:

  • Beaverhead with one (three people total)
  • Blaine with one (14 people total)
  • Carbon with one (four people total)
  • Cascade with three (51 people total)
  • Deer Lodge with one (10 people total)
  • Hill with three (25 people total)
  • Mineral with one (one person total)
  • Park with one (one person total)
  • Pondera with one (two people total)
  • Ravalli with four (nine people total)
  • Rosebud with one (23 people total)
  • Sweet Grass with one (three people total)
  • Teton with one (three people total)
  • Wibaux with one (one person total)
  • Yellowstone with two (105 total)

Montana has had 49,398 confirmed COVID-19 infections since March.

A total of 29,105 people in Montana were considered recovered as of Tuesday's update. Montana tracks recoveries on the basis of whether or not a person meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for a person with COVID-19 to be released from isolation. A recovery under that definition does not necessarily mean a person is no longer experiencing symptoms or other adverse health effects related to their illness.

Cascade County added 540 cases, which is more than three times the number of cases any other county reported Tuesday. The county's active case total is at 3,363.

On Monday the county health department issued a press release explaining that it was working to catch up on COVID-19 data entry and reporting. The catch-up is at least in part related to an operational change allowing DPHHS to pull data directly from Cascade County's reporting system. As a result Cascade county had a significant increase in active cases, and a decline in recovered cases.

"The numbers of recovered cases in Cascade County will continue to rise in the days to come as all the data is entered into the reporting system."

Gallatin County added 154 cases for 1,115 active cases. Flathead County added 140 cases for 1,776 active cases. Lewis and Clark County added 81 cases for 909 active. Silver Bow added 76 cases for 581 active. Missoula County added 59 cases for 2,055 active. Yellowstone County added 59 cases for 4,814 active.

The state reported the completion of another 10,494 tests Tuesday. That brings the statewide testing total to 583,828.

Counties reported the following number of cases in Tuesday's update:

  • Cascade with 540 (3,363 active)
  • Gallatin with 154 cases (1,115 active)
  • Flathead with 140 cases (1,776 active)
  • Lewis and Clark with 81 (909 active)
  • Silver Bow with 76 (581 active)
  • Missoula with 59 (2,055 active)
  • Yellowstone with 59 (4,814 active)
  • Big Horn with 50 (719 active)
  • Custer with 42 (146 active)
  • Ravalli with 41 (301 active)
  • Beaverhead with 30 (120 active)
  • Jefferson with 26 (125 active)
  • Sanders with 21 (43 active)
  • Carbon with 13 (115 active)
  • Hill with 13 (326 active)
  • Dawson with 12 (79 active)
  • Deer Lodge with 12 (54 active)
  • Fallon with 12 (29 active)
  • Stillwater with 12 (61 active)
  • Lake with 11 (284 active)
  • Rosebud with 11 (67 active)
  • Park with 10 (182 active)
  • Roosevelt with nine (509 active)
  • Lincoln with eight (213 active)
  • Wibaux with eight (20 active)
  • Chouteau with seven (64 active)
  • Sheridan with six (80 active)
  • Glacier with five (135 active)
  • Liberty with five (12 active)
  • Richland with five (224 active)
  • Toole with four (33 active)
  • McCone with two (four active)
  • Mineral with two (eight active)
  • Pondera with two (36 active)
  • Powder River with two (nine active)
  • Sweet Grass with two (41 active)
  • Teton with two (18 active)
  • Broadwater with one (28 active)
  • Fergus with one (371 active)
  • Granite with one (33 active)
  • Phillips with one (31 active)
  • Powell with one (86 active)
  • Valley with one (58 active)

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